Local News

Panel orders fired K-9 trooper be reinstated

Posted October 17, 2008 4:39 p.m. EDT
Updated October 20, 2008 10:45 a.m. EDT

— A state commission has ordered the Highway Patrol to reinstate a trooper who was fired more than a year ago for roughly treating his K-9 partner, according to Crime Control and Public Safety Secretary Bryan Beatty.

Beatty said Friday that he had received the State Personnel Commission's order to reinstate Charles Jones. Beatty upheld Jones' dismissal in September 2007, but a state administrative law judge ruled that his firing violated the patrol's personnel policies.

Another trooper turned over two 15-second video clips of Jones suspending his dog, Ricoh, from a railing and kicking the dog repeatedly to force it to release a chew toy.

The commission found that the patrol did not have "just cause to dismiss for unacceptable personal conduct;" however, it did find "sufficient cause for discipline for unsatisfactory job performance," Beatty said.

Beatty expressed his disagreement with the decision and said that patrol leaders will consult with the state Attorney General's Office to decide about an appeal to the state Superior Court.

“We feel we made the right decision concerning Trooper Jones," Capt. Everett Clendenin, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol, said.

The Police Benevolent Association, however, supports the commission's decision, officials said.

"We're very pleased with the decision," John Midgett, an association officer, said. "We're pleased that the commission followed the law."

Midgett said the association has started looking into civil litigation against those it believes violated personnel laws.

Jones petitioned to get his job back, alleging that he was fired without just cause – "higher powers" ordered Beatty to fire him – and that proper procedures were not followed.

”The decision is correct in accordance with the over-whelming evidence and the state law. I am dismayed with the Highway Patrol and the rush to judgment in the case of my client,” Jones’ attorney, Jack O’Hale, said in a statement Friday.

Patrol leaders have argued that Jones, who coordinated training for the force's K-9 unit, crossed the line from training to abuse and acted in a way inconsistent with his own training.

In June, Judge Fred Morrison said that public outcry from the cell-phone video resulted in political pressure from Gov. Mike Easley’s office to fire Jones.

The Highway Patrol has denied that political pressure played any role in firing Jones.

Morris' recommendation that Jones get his job back sent the matter to the State Personnel Commission, which held hearings in August.

The state suspended the patrol's K-9 program in April until its training manual could be reviewed and revised.

Jones has since worked as a police officer in Apex. The State Bureau of Investigation reviewed the videos, but no criminal charges have been filed against Jones.